My predictions for 2016:
1. Comeback of the night train. At the end of 2014, to much passenger outrage, Deutsche Bahn dropped virtually every international night train route from its timetable. Travellers to Warsaw, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen were all deprived of the most civilised way to travel. But there is hope. Foreign railways are filling the gap in the market. Russian state railways has been operating a train with sleeper cars from Moscow to Paris via Berlin three times a week since the autumn. Hungarian railways offers nocturnal service to Budapest and Vienna. Expect more routes linking Berlin to other European capitals to launch in 2016.
2. With the airport situation out of control we’ll need those trains. BER will remain closed, all year long and for most of 2017! And there’ll be much antipication on whether the thing will open eight years late as “planned” in October 2017. It’s not all bleak, though. In September 2016 we can all celebrate the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the construction of BER.
3. In the meantime, why not put the terminal (now that it’s safer to enter) to good use and house some refugees there? Refugees are already being moved into the nearby hangar of the Berlin air show. BER is conveniently located near the (barely) functioning Schönefeld airport. Handy for the fast-track deportations of refugees from the “wrong” countries we can expect to go up in the coming year as Angela Merkel attempts to stem the defection of CDU voters to the fringe-right AFD.
4. Expect a crackdown on Friedrichshain’s “party mile”. Once upon a time there was a fantastic alternative project called RAW Tempel in the former railyards near Warschauer Brücke. Punks and artists moved in and did cool, weird stuff. But soon clubs opened up, and then more clubs, and then a trashy outdoor party pool. The entire south Friedrichshain neighbourhood evolved into nightly melee of outdoor drinking, stag nights, low-quality weed dealers, pickpocketing and the occasional stabbing. The district government sent mimes to sort out the situation! Teams of street performers went around cutely asking wasted tourists to lower their voices: €100,000 for this. And it didn’t work. In 2016, expect way more police, less fun but just as many urinating Englishmen and other petty criminals on Revaler Straße. Following the district’s failed attempt to get federal approval of a legal cannabis shop in 2015, expect the horde of small-time dealers to haunt the area as well as in Görlitzer Park to grow bigger and more annoying than ever, much to the chagrin of most Kreuzberg residents. And if you want interesting, stag-party-free nightlife you’ll have to head to the fringes of Lichtenberg.
5. New Agey stuff is going to explode in Berlin in 2016. Berlin has finally been fully integrated into the global capitalist scheme of things as evidenced by more jobs and investment. With the influx of money comes a more rushed lifestyle, more stress and more uncertainty and anxiety. And so it’s no surprise that there has been a corresponding proliferation of New Age healing festivals, meditation workshops, retreats offering yoga of every stripe, fire ceremonies, mindfulness seminars – all offering respite from the digital rat race and lots and lots of meaning and inner peace to fill your meaningless life with. Dare I say group meditation is the “new clubbing”? No, I would not! Berlin is not Southern California. Yet.
6. Will 2016 be the year that Berlin stops mindlessly following the US lead in all things food and drink? Bone broth? €6 glasses of IPA? Seriously? I hope to see artisanal Buletten and craft Berliner Weiße on menus by the end of the year.
7. New hip neighbourhood in 2016? With the Samwer brothers’ (of Rocket Internet fame) recent purchase of the imposing 1920s Art Deco Ullsteinhaus something is brewing in southern Tempelhof – below the Ringbahn. Time to open up that overpriced coffee shop staffed by Antipodeans that you’ve been dreaming of! In Tempelhof! Now!
8. But… 2016 could also be the year Berlin’s two bubbles – the start-up scene and the real estate market – begin to leak some hot air. Despite the unbelievably successful hype machine surrounding the digital economy, very few true successes have emerged from Silicon Allee. Even poster child Soundcloud is rumoured to be on its last legs. And there’s nothing innovative about the one real hit: Zalando, a copycat online shop with a huge advertising budget. So expect fewer apps with silly names and more start-ups in the social entrepreneurship mold. Rather than making a billion, these will involve things like locally grown food, sustainable fashion and the integration of refugees in the job market. Similarly, I predict the overheated property market will return to earth. Developers are going to re-discover the joys of building affordable flats for normal people rather than catering to international tax dogers looking for a safe haven for their cash in the form of a second home in the German capital.
9. The one thing that is really impossible to predict in 2016 is the refugee situation. There are currently about 50,000 refugees sleeping in emergency shelters in Berlin right now. For the most part Berliners have been welcoming and supportive. However, if as many people arrive from the Middle East as they did in 2015 – and other European countries refuse to share the burden – I fear the public mood could shift very quickly for the worst, even in tolerant, open Berlin. Do your part to keep the vibe welcoming… and pray that Merkel has a plan.